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October 13, 2005
Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, (785) 864-2684.

Viewer discretion advised: KU Theatre stages Ben Elton's drama 'Popcorn'

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas Department of Theatre and Film's University Theatre is staging "Popcorn," a contemporary drama by Ben Elton, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 29 and Nov. 3, 4 and 5 and at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

"Popcorn," which opened in London's West End in 1997, is derived from Elton's best-selling 1996 novel of the same name. Known to many as a stand-up comic, Elton studied drama at Manchester University in England. For television he wrote "The Thin Blue Line," "Blackadder," "The Young Ones" and "The Man From Auntie." He has written three best-selling novels in addition to "Popcorn": "Stark" in 1989, "Gasping" in 1990 and "Gridlock" in 1991. His two previous West End plays are "Silly Cow" in 1993 and "Gasping," which predated his similarly named novel.

Ron Willis, professor emeritus of theatre and film, is returning to the University Theatre to direct "Popcorn." Scenic, costume and make-up design is by Robbie Jones, Garden City graduate student in scenography. Matt Jacobson, assistant professor of theatre and film, is director of photography and shot the video segments used in the play. Nick Kostner, Murdock senior, is sound designer; Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre and film, is lighting designer, and Eric F. Avery, Olathe senior, is choreographer.

Willis said "Popcorn" promises to be a complex show mixing live stage and video elements and is likely to provoke some polarized discussion.

" 'Popcorn' is a play that sports sex, gunshots, explicit language, violence, humor and a thoughtful theme," Willis said. "Some patrons will leave the theatre after the performance eager to talk about the ethical issues over a beer. Some patrons will be offended and, perhaps, leave at intermission or before.

"The playwright takes great pains to point out that while 'Popcorn' looks into the relationship between art and violence, it focuses more on the debate waged by partisans who are convinced their lofty, albeit emotion-driven, personal view is absolutely right."

In the play, Bruce Delamitri is a film director who specializes in violent, sexy and stylish films. Some members of the public think his films instill a taste for violence and prompt many to emulate them. Surprisingly he wins an Oscar and that's when things go wrong. His life becomes entangled with some real killers known as the Mall Murderers, who want to exploit him for their own purposes. Whereas Bruce pretends to kill people for entertainment value, the deadly duo really does kill people just for the fun of it. Bruce's agent, his soon-to-be ex-wife, and their daughter also get caught up in the goings-on as do two members of a television newsgathering crew. Wayne and Scout know it will not be long before they get caught and sentenced to die in the electric chair. They decide to put the blame on Bruce and contend they are hapless victims of a violent popular culture.

Willis said Elton pulls no punches as he satirically explores this issue of 'art' as justification for murder and the social repercussions of living in a self-absorbed Western society.

"This play takes a look at ethics and moral responsibility in our society as they relate to film violence," he said. "The common thread is that no one, seen or unseen, accepts any responsibility. Each blames another person or agency."

So what happens when an infamous murdering duo take a movie director hostage and claim it's his movies that are to blame for their actions?

"What if the blame lies on the movie-goers who clamor for the thrill of a murderous movie?" he said. "What if you are to blame for coming to see this play?"

" Popcorn" is an R-rated production, not suitable for children. Audience members wishing to discuss or comment on the production can visit the "Popcorn" blog at www.livejournal.com/~popcorn2005.

Reserved seat tickets are on sale in the University Theatre Ticket Office, 864-3982, and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are $16 for the public, $10 for students and $15 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff. VISA and Mastercard are accepted for phone and online orders.

Members of the cast for the KU production of "Popcorn" include (listed by name, class, parents' names, high school, and role):

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Leawood
Courtney Schweitzer, junior, daughter of Ken and Linda Schweitzer; Blue Valley High School; Velvet Delamitri.
From Lenexa
Brandon Ford, junior, son of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Walker; Olathe East High School; Karl Brezner.
Val Smith, sophomore, daughter of Tom and Vicki Smith; Shawnee Mission Northwest High School; Scout.
From Overland Park
Lara Thomas, sophomore, daughter of Jay and Mary Cay Thomas; Blue Valley Northwest High School; Kirsten.

PAWNEE COUNTY
From Larned
Kate E. Giessel, senior, daughter of Tom and Sheryl Giessel; Larned High School; Brooke Daniels.

RILEY COUNTY
From Manhattan
Dale Lee Buchheister, senior, son of James and Carol Buchheister; Manhattan High School; Wayne Hudson.

SEDGWICK COUNTY
From Valley Center
Will Paulson, senior, son of Bill and Pam Paulson; Valley Center High School; Bruce Delamitri.

SHAWNEE COUNTY
From Topeka
Alyson Cripps, freshman, daughter of Bryce and Judy Cripps; Topeka West High School; Farrah Delamitri.

MISSOURI
From Kirksville
Jordan Clark, freshman, son of Steve and Betty Clark; Kirksville Senior High School; Bill.

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